I use Photoshop and Lightroom (photography) and Illustrator (illustrations) - plus browsing, e-mail, and similar everyday tasks. No games, so I will NOT need high powered graphics card. My budget is around $500, and I'd like to fit in it: MB, CPU, RAM and graphics card. I have ATX midi tower case, so most MBs should fit.
mianmars: Thanks for your help! It looks like one heck of a deal, and a very balanced system.
I spent last night and this afternoon reading up on the subject, and began wondering if I could get away with skewing the components towards processor and memory. I use PS and Illustrator CS3, neither of which uses GPU - both rely on CPU (and perhaps RAM) instead. I was even wondering if MB with integrated graphics wouldn't be a good fit, but I can't seem to find any that works with i7.
One more thing: I have NAS, which means I don't need need eSATA or USB3 for external drives.
So by lowering standards on MB and video card I arrived at:
ASRock H55M-LE LGA 1156 Intel H55 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard
ASUS EN8400GS Silent/P/512M GeForce 8400 GS 512MB 64-bit DDR2
EDIT: I don't know how to post links, LOL.
Everything together below $450 w/ shipping. I could add 4GB RAM right now (and still be around $500), or wait to see if I need it. Or if it turned out my PSU needed an upgrade (I have Scythe 400W, not sure which exact model), I could get one without stretching my budget much. And if I ended up upgrading to some future Illustrator (CS6.. ?) which benefited from a good GPU, I might be able to upgrade video card then.
Any thoughts / advice? Am I cutting too many corners by selecting ASRock MB, instead of ASUS? Any other cheap video card I should consider? Should I be looking at AMD processors instead?
I ended up getting i5-760, ASUS P7H55-M PRO and 2x2GB Corsair memory for $350 - in microcenter. I never knew they had good prices - and I have a store few miles from me.
I didn't buy video card - my old one is 7600GT based, and turns out to be fine for my purpose. Brings Win7 performance index down to 5.3, but Illustrator is not complaining and neither am I =).